§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ LORD REDESDALE,
in moving the third reading of this Bill said, that gas was the only article sold by measure for securing the accuracy of which measurement there existed no legislative provision. That was the more remarkable inasmuch as the annual value of the consumption of gas throughout the kingdom was about £5,000,000. The object of the Bill, he added, was to bring the sale of gas under the provisions of the Weights and Measures Act, the machinery of which had been imported into it with that view. There were, doubtless, some difficulties in the application of the Act to this somewhat new article of consumption. One of these was the selection of properly qualified persons to be inspectors, and therefore the Bill provided for the appointment of inspectors within a period of nine months after the passing of the Act.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.
said, the provisions of the Bill struck him as most objectionable, inasmuch as they imposed a considerable burden on the county rates, and he was not aware that their Lordships possessed the power of inflicting a tax of that nature. The machinery which would be required to carry out the working of the Bill was most expensive, and the inspectors whose appointment was contemplated would require to be persons of extensive scientific knowledge. He thought that the expense of inspection, particularly in scattered villages, ought not to be thrown on the ratepayers generally, but on the consumers of gas, who were the only persons who would derive advantage from the inspection. In Scotland, owing to the description of coal from which the gas was made, it was four times as pure as in England; notwithstanding which the Bill not only provided for inspectors, but for costly appeals from their decisions. He trusted the noble Lord would not press the Bill until time had been allowed for the consideration of its provisions. If the noble Lord persevered, he would move that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out "now" and insert "this Day Three Months."
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
was understood to express an opinion that the House ought not to pass the Bill without further information.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that gas was a commodity, and might be as much a subject of larcency as wine or milk, and it had been so ruled by the Judges; and it appeared from the cases which had come before the Queen's Bench, that the companies were often grossly defrauded. He trusted, therefore, that before their Lordships assented to the Bill, they would take care to render its provisions as perfect as possible, for the protection of the companies as well as of the consumer.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
explained, that persons availing themselves of the services of the inspectors would have to pay fees, which would probably be equal in the aggregate to the salaries of those officers, and therefore little or no expense would be thrown upon the county-rate. Under these circumstances he recommended his noble Friend to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Lord REDESDALE and Lord EBURY also pressed the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment,
§ Motion by Leave of the House, withdrawn.
§ The Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 3a accordingly.
§ Amendments made.
§ Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.